“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Russellville in Hamblen County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)

Bethesda Presbyterian Church

A Church Divided

Bethesda Presbyterian Church Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Porter, September 12, 2010
1. Bethesda Presbyterian Church Marker
Inscription. Bethesda Presbyterian Church, completed 1835, is a powerful reminder of the effect of the Civil War on the Tennessee home front. As the war clouds gathered, conflicting sympathies divided the congregation, and the church closed its doors. After the Battle of Bean's Station on December 14, 1863, Confederate Gen. James Longstreet arrived here with 25,000 ill-clad soldiers who remained until late in February, 1864. Bethesda Church served as a hospital. Soldiers of both armies rest in the cemetery, including 80 unknown dead, most believed to be Confederate soldiers.

In October 1864, Federal troops pursued Confederate forces near here ("Vaughn's Stampede"), and in November Confederates chased Union troops westward toward Knoxville ("Gillem's Stampede"). During one of the engagements, a cannonball struck the eastern wall and caused structural damage. The walls were then reinforced with large iron rods that passed north and south through both entrances. The beautiful interior, with plank high-back pews and an ornate pulpit, was forever stained by the blood of war.

When the war ended and the soldiers came home, many had wounds or bitter feelings. Some church members wanted to forgive and forget but others did not. Irregular services began again. From 1866 to 1871, each side seated itself in the outer pews, leaving the middle pews empty. Finally, one group arose in a body and quietly walked out, never to return, and helped organize First Presbyterian Church of Morristown. The others stayed until 1875, when they moved to the newly built Russellville Presbyterian Church.

Bethesda's closed doors and absent congregation tell the story of a congregation that became a casualty of the Civil War.
Erected 2010 by Tennessee Civil War Trails.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Tennessee Civil War Trails marker series.
Location. 36° 14.824′ N, 83° 13.661′ W. Marker is in Russellville, Tennessee, in Hamblen County. Marker is on Bethesda Road. Touch for map. Located near the gate for Bethesda Cemetery, about 700 yards north of Andrew Johnson Highway (US 11E). The Church is about 60 yards north of marker. Marker is in this post office area: Russellville TN 37860, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Russellville Area (a few steps from this marker); Cheek's Crossroads (approx. 0.9 miles away); Hayslope (approx. 1.7 miles away); Longstreet's Billet (approx. 1.9 miles away); Longstreet's Headquarters (approx. 1.9 miles away); Return From Kentucky (approx. 2.6 miles away); Crockett Tavern (approx. 2.8 miles away); Erected in Memory of the 22 Hamblen County Boys Who Made the Supreme Sacrifice in the World War (approx. 3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Russellville.
More about this marker. On the left side of the marker is a portrait of General Longstreet. On the right is a photo of the Interior of Bethesda Church.
Categories. Churches & ReligionWar, US Civil
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 12, 2010, by Bill Porter of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 1,665 times since then and 166 times this year. Photo   1. submitted on September 12, 2010, by Bill Porter of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.
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